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Has SA lost R700bn to corruption?


IOL

01 October 2015 at 2:20pm

Sintha Chiumia and Anim van Wyk

Has SA lost R700 billion to corruption since ’94? Africa Check’s Sintha Chiumia and Anim van Wyk explain why the calculation is wrong.

Durban – It’s been stated as fact that South Africa has lost R700 billion in public money to corruption since the advent of democracy in 1994. But how does one measure the cost of hidden crime?

One of the Unite Against Corruption march organisers and former general secretary of trade union Cosatu, Zwelinzima Vavi, used the R700 billion figure widely. To talk radio show host, Tim Modise, Vavi said: “R700bn could have been used to address the principal challenge of South Africa.”

Vavi also reportedly cited the number to urge Nissan assembly plant workers and a gathering of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa members to join the march.

When he tweeted the R700bn figure, a Twitter user replied: “No ways. Lucky guess?”

Is it a guess or the result of thorough research? Africa Check got out the calculators.

On social media, Unite Against Corruption attributed the claim to the Institute of Internal Auditors. This likely refers to the January launch of the Anti-Intimidation and Ethical Practices Forum, an association of different organisations fighting corruption.

At the event, the forum’s chair and head of the Institute of Internal Auditors South Africa, Claudelle von Eck, reportedly said: “The cost of corruption in the last 20 years… we have lost R700bn.”

Von Eck confirmed to Africa Check she had made the claim, but said she was quoting the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa. The institute’s head, Paul Hoffman, was quoted using the R700bn figure last year. (Updated from R675bn he cited the year before and in 2012.)

But Hoffman passed the buck to Tendersure, a web-based tendering tool, owned by a company called Sentigol.

“(Tendersure) worked that out as a percentage of the DP… 20% of the GDP over the last 20 years works out to that,” Hoffman told Africa Check.

An October 2011 article in Engineering News quoted the head of Sentigol, Werner Coetzee, as saying research by international anti-corruption bodies showed Africa to lose “about 25%” of its gross domestic product (GDP) to corruption.

Coetzee then explained that 25% of South Africa’s GDP of R2 700bn (likely 2010s) came to R675bn and that this figure was potentially lost to corruption.

But he told Africa Check he was misquoted: “I don’t know how anyone would arrive at that number.” The businessman said he once attempted to calculate the cost of corruption in the past 20 years, but gave up because it would “ignore the corruption during apartheid”.

Coetzee didn’t pluck the corruption formula out of thin air, but he got the wrong end of the stick.

Global civil society organisation Transparency International published a handbook called Curbing Corruption in Public Procurement in 2006. The very first paragraph states “damages from corruption” are usually estimated at “between 10% and 25%, and in some cases as high as 40 to 50%” of a country’s public procurement contracts – not its GDP.

Yet the bibliography does not contain any reference to studies showing how this share was arrived at. Africa Check contacted the organisation’s public sector integrity programme head, José María Marín, who said he’d look into it, but we haven’t yet received a response.

Since then the statement has become a tumbleweed claim: rolling along year after year, from one report to another, without source or context, supposedly holding true wherever it goes.

So how did do we end up with “R700bn lost to corruption in South Africa in the last 20 years”? Here is Africa Check’s theory, give or take R5bn:

1. The formula from Transparency International, or the various other organisations that quoted its information, made its way to South African treasury official, Sonwabo Tshoko, who stated in a 2010 presentation: “It has been estimated that R30bn per year, which is 20% of the overall government procurement budget of R150bn, is being lost or is disappearing into a black hole of fraud and corruption.”

(Tshoko has since left and Africa Check could not get hold of him or more information on the calculation via Treasury spokeswoman Phumza Macanda.)

2. South Africa’s then head of the Special Investigating Unit, Willie Hofmeyr, used this information when asked to estimate the cost of corruption in Parliament in October 2011.

According to the minutes, “Hofmeyr responded that it was difficult to do so, but one suggestion by National Treasury was that it might amount to about 20% of the annual procurement budget, or about R25bn a year.”

(Hofmeyr confirmed to Africa Check he got the information from Treasury, but couldn’t remember the exact source.)

3. The head of the Institute for Accountability, Paul Hoffman, attributed the figure of R30bn per year to Hofmeyr in a 2012 conference report. However, it seems that when the time came to present the report, he used R675bn as a total figure lost to corruption since 1994.

A news report said: “Hoffman based the figure of R675bn on government’s admission that the economy loses R30bn a year to corrupt activities. The disclosure elicited visible shock among conference goers.” (A quick calculation shows that R30bn times 18 years is R540bn, not considering inflation.)

So how much has SA really lost to corruption?

The frustrating – and logical – answer is we just can’t say for sure.

Macanda said South Africa’s Treasury does not attempt to calculate the cost of corruption. “Our observation is that people speculate and also tend to use the word corruption when what they are talking about is irregular, unauthorised or wasteful expenditure,” she said.

Africa Check spoke to Hennie van Vuuren, research associate at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) and writer of a 2005 Transparency International country study report on South Africa.

He said the idea that corruption costs 20% (or 10% or 25%) of public procurement came from the assumption that middlemen involved in corruption demanded 8 to 10% of a contract’s value.

“But this differs from transaction to transaction and industry to industry,” he said.

Ways to gauge trends in corruption included perception surveys and tallying detected cases.

Van Vuuren said one could even include illicit outflows – where private companies moved money to tax havens abroad – in the broader ambit of corruption, which was estimated to be in the region of R300bn in 2012 alone.

“Our need to define corruption in monetary terms ignores the much more fundamental costs of corruption – carried by individuals in weakened forms of government,” he said.

The head of governance, crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies, Gareth Newham, told Africa Check “we simply don’t know what the actual amount is because corruption is a crime in which both parties benefit and will seek to hide”.

However, Newham said he thought a “considerable” amount had been lost to corruption “given the large scale of the problem and the high level involvement of our political elite in corruption”.

It’s “impossible to know” how much money South Africa has lost to corruption, the executive director of non-profit organisation Corruption Watch, David Lewis, told Africa Check.

“Various people, various institutions have come up with estimates. I don’t know how they arrive at these figures,” he said.

“I am comfortable to say there is a high level of corruption in SA but you can’t rely on those estimates.”

Conclusion: the figure of R700bn is a thumbsuck.

Although a firm figure helps spur citizens to action – in a country where experts agree that it’s a big problem – this specific estimate is not reliable.

The amount probably stems from a claim that about 20% of a country’s public procurement budgets disappears into back pockets, attributable to Transparency International as far as we could tell, but not backed up by research studies. Since then it’s been mangled beyond recognition in South Africa.

* This article first appeared on Africa Check (http://www.africacheck.org), a non-profit organisation run from the Journalism Department at the University of the Witwatersrand, which promotes accuracy in public debate, testing claims made by public figures around the continent

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Daily News

New Procurement Procedures to Help South Africa’s Small Solar Developers


Solar Novus Today

Shem Oirere

September 22, 2014

South Africa has raised the hopes of small solar PV developers with projects of less than 5MW, after proposing a dedicated fund to enable them meet their capital expenditure.

The Department of Energy has also announced changes to the procurement procedures Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) to enable Small Independent Power Producers (IPPs) cut on costs.

The developers could soon find alternative funding after big lenders shunned them for larger projects under REIPPPP, which hopes to generate 1,450MW of solar PV by 2030. The 20-year $645 billion program is also expected to generate an additional 2,275MW from onshore wind, concentrated solar thermal, biomass solid, biogas, landfill and small hydro.

Reducing transaction costs

The fund for small renewable projects could be up and running by February next year, according to top government officials, for the  benefit of projects being developed under the Small Independent Power Producer Programme with a combined capacity of 200MW. No allocation has been given for each of the renewable energy technologies for this particular category of projects.

Energy minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, says the financing of projects with a capacity of less 5MW is a major challenge, but pledged government intervention in ensuring development of standard documents for the projects “to reduce transaction costs.”

She confirmed South Africa is working at a proposal for a dedicated fund to assist small IPPs with transaction costs.

“This will ensure that new entrepreneurs can also enter the renewable energy IPP market. I want to give the small IPP entities and developers the assurance that the fund will be up and running by February 2015, in time for the second round (of small IPP procurement).”

The fund will be established with the support of the German government-owned development bank KfW. The bank will make the funds available to the government on concessionary terms to enable beneficiaries to achieve their project objectives.

The Department of Energy explains that the Small Independent Power Producer Programme, whose first request for proposals was released in August 2013, is “to allow South African citizens who are, or who own or control, small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and/or emerging, smaller power developers an opportunity to participate in the Renewable Energy generation sector”

The programme also affords South African power generation equipment manufacturers, “who may not have international certification the opportunity to supply equipment for the projects procured under the Small Projects IPP Procurement Programme.”

Effective implementation of the small IPP programme will also make it possible “to limit the cost‐at‐risk incurred by bidders through participating in the Small Projects IPP Procurement Programme in two stages.”

Reducing costs of procurement

Apart from the push for a dedicated fund to cushion small IPPs from high project costs, the government has also announced drastic changes to the procurement process to make it cheaper for the “little” developers to bring their projects on board within timelines.

Senior project adviser in the Private Public Partnership at the National Treasury, Karen Breytenbach, says the department of energy would make the changes before the fourth bidding round in November.

“To reduce costs incurred in submitting tender documents, the department would reduce the number of documents required,” she said.

“We are also going to change the request for proposal to make it less expensive for small IPPs to bid. We are looking at ways for bidders to submit their bids without going through sourcing support letters from banks.”

The amendments to the bidding process and proposal for fund for small-scale renewable energy projects come barely months after developers raised concerns over the requirement that they, too, be subjected to the high compliance costs under the department of energy’s REIPPPP for projects bigger than 5MW.

South African Photovoltaic Industry Association (Sapvica) Vice-Chairperson, Mike Levington, said in an interview with the Engineering News online magazine two months ago that lack of capacity in the debt market to fund smaller IPPs is a challenge because banks are not keen on them.

“Delays in the procurement processes, such as the delay in announcing the dates of the bid windows for the small-scale IPP programme, places financial strain on companies and small, medium-sized and micro-enterprises in particular,” Levington said.

The small IPPs were also subject to compliance costs that included the $4,923 that is payable to South Africa power utility Eskom for estimate letters, which gives details on how a particular project could be connected to the grid.

South African Renewable Energy Council chairperson Johan van den Berg said, “This relatively high compliance cost has a significant impact on the price that smaller projects require to be feasible.”

Until the pledge by the Department of Energy on changes to procurement of small IPPs is honoured, the project developers are subjected to the same application process like those constructing projects of larger capacity, which the industry stakeholders argue disadvantages them.

Levington said the proposed changes to RFP for the fourth round would “hopefully be extended to the small-scale IPP process in the future.”

Eskom had previously defended the estimate letter charges saying the utility has to recover its costs related to “detailed engineering, pricing and legal work to produce the cost estimates.”

“Between the first three bid windows (of the REIPPPP), Eskom processed in excess of 1,000 cost estimate letters without direct cost recovery from the potential IPPs and, therefore, this cost had to be recovered from all customers,” Eskom was quoted saying in a previous statement.

“Many of these IPPs eventually never submitted bids (for) the government procurement programme. Preparation of a cost estimate letter requires network planning and grid studies to be conducted and this is followed by a vetting process involving pricing and legal teams,” it said.

South Africa leading in PV development

Meanwhile, South Africa has now been ranked among the top 10 global leaders in solar PV development according to a July release by wiki-solar.org, which monitors deployment of utility-scale projects globally.

The country has deployed 15 solar PV plants with capacity of 503MW under the REIPPPP.  The projects include SolarReserve‘s 75MW Lesedi and 75MW Letsatsi in the Northern Cape and Free State provinces respectively.

Others are Norwegian-based firm Scatec Solar‘s 75MW Kalkbult solar plant near Petrusville in the Northern Cape, Globeleq consortium’s 50MW De Aar and 50MW Droogfontein solar plants near De Aar and Kimberley in the Northern Cape, US company SunPower‘s 22 MW Herbert and 11 MW Greefspan solar plants in the Northern Cape, which it owns jointly with Spain’s AMDA energy and South Africa’s Alt-E Technologies.

Separately, small rooftop solar PV installers in South Africa have also raised concern over the lack of legislation which hampers the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from deploying the technology to its full potential.

South African subsidiary of German solar PV mounting systems specialist,Schletter, said in July the Department of Energy should make changes to the legislation around the solar PV industry to enable that small power producers “feed power into the grid structure.”

The company’s South Africa head electrical engineer Mr Abdul-Khaaliq Mohamed said, “Grid energy management and metering must be upgraded and legislation should be revised to enable SMEs and property owners with rooftop solar PV systems to sell their excess power to the national grid.”

Mohamed said South Africa’s solar PV rooftop market is picking up in tandem with the growing number of SMEs and industries – this mainly as response to the increase in tariffs by the country’s power utility, Eskom and a desire to save more on electricity costs.

“If all SMEs strive to have solar PV cater for 20-30% of their energy needs this will reshape South Africa’s energy mix and make a massive difference to the country’s carbon footprint, thereby ensuring a sustainable energy supply for future generations.”

Written by Shem Oirere, a freelance writer based in Nairobi who specialises in renewable energy.

South Africa: now making, assembling 50% of taxis


SouthAfrica.Info

19 March 2013

South Africa has made significant progress in localizing the manufacture and assembly of minibus taxis, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said on the weekend.

“Some 12 months ago, none of the taxis on our roads were assembled in South Africa. Today about 50 percent of all taxis that are purchased are made or assembled here in South Africa, and we’re moving towards the target of localizing two-thirds of assembly in the taxi industry by 2015.”

The government is leading a campaign to promote the local procurement of supplies across all industries in order to boost the economy’s capacity to create jobs.

Patel said the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) had been mandated to develop a national localization strategy to guide all spheres of government.

He said the labour-absorbing capacity of local manufacturing industries had to be boosted to stimulate job creation and economic growth, adding that a strong local manufacturing sector would have a positive impact on South Africa’s balance of payments.

“We are working in partnership with a major manufacturer, Toyota, who has expanded the factory in eThekwini, as well as a partnership with the IDC and a Chinese manufacturer called the Beijing Automotive Works that has started a factory in Gauteng.

These companies had already employed 220 people to assemble taxis locally, with the number set to increase significantly by 2015, Patel said.

In October 2011, the government, business, labour and community-based organisations signed a Local Procurement Accord committing the parties to work together to increase local procurement as part of South Africa’s plans to create five- million jobs over the next decade.

And in December, the government put the buying power of the state firmly behind local manufacturers, with new amendments to the the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act allowing the government to name sectors and products that require a minimum level of local content to qualify for state procurement.

Bus manufacturing was among the first batch of sectors designated for local procurement under the amended law, resulting in the local sourcing of 80 percent of all inputs and supplies in the manufacturing of bus bodies for the rapid public transport systems in Pretoria, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Other products designated in the first batch included power pylons, rolling stock, TV set-top boxes, clothing, canned vegetables, footwear and leather products.

In January, the Department of Trade and Industry announced a second batch of designated products, namely electrical valves, manual and pneumatic actuators, electrical and telecommunication cables, and components of solar water heaters.

Standard Bank Group is leading investor in South Africa procurement process


PV-TECH.ORG

By Nilima Choudhury

November 13, 2012

South Africa’s Standard Bank Group has emerged as the leading investor in the first round of the country’s renewable energy independent power producer (REIPP) procurement process, backing a total of 11 solar and wind projects.

The South African government has allocated 1,416MW for this first round of the procurement process, worth about R47 billion (US$5.3 billion) of fixed investment, of which the majority, around R27 billion (US$3.1 billion), will be funded by debt.

Standard Bank Group will provide comprehensive corporate and investment banking services to all its clients in the REIPPP programme, including underwriting R9.4 billion (over US$1 billion) worth of debt, providing interest and currency hedges, carbon trading credits and corporate bonding and guarantee facilities.

The bank’s clients include 338MW of wind and 235MW of solar PV, out of the combined 1,416MW per year expected to be produced by all the projects. Standard Bank Group itself has also taken an equity stake in four projects.

Alastair Campbell, Executive Vice President, Power & Infrastructure Finance at Standard Bank Group said: “Standard Bank will be ready to disburse funding for most of the projects as soon as all documentation is finalised and hedges are closed.”

Developers will have until 16 November 2012 to finalise all their documents and foreign currency hedges, after which projects can be rolled out.

“This confirms that there is considerable appetite from developers and banks to invest in renewable energy projects in South Africa. Standard Bank has been involved in the emerging story of power generation from inception. We participated in the Integrated Resource Planning public hearings which re-affirmed REIPP procurement process as an accepted way of diversifying our energy mix and reducing carbon emissions,” continued Campbell.

Further bidding rounds are expected to take place roughly six months apart from 2013 onwards to allocate the total 3725MW. In line with the country’s long-term power plan, South Africa aims to secure a total of 17,800MW of renewable energy or 42% of South Africa’s new generation capacity by 2030.

Standard Bank Group said it is already preparing for the financial close of the second bidding window and is supporting the third bidding window. The second bidding window is expected to close in the first quarter of 2013.

“We have already committed a total of R6.1 billion of debt out of a total R19 billion to preferred bidders on the second bidding window. The second programme is smaller than the first and will have a total of 19 projects. Standard Bank is supporting preferred bidders on five of these projects,” said Ntlai Mosiah, Head of Power and Infrastructure SA Advisory and Coverage at Standard Bank Group.

“As the programme unfolds, an increasing number of benefits are expected for the South African electricity consumer. Chief amongst these is the expected fall in tariffs bid due to increasing interest and competition in the process. We are expecting that renewable energy prices will reach grid parity in the foreseeable future.”

Mosiah continued: “An aligned major benefit will emerge from increased local component manufacturing with its associated industrial development and job creation, an aspect that government has insisted should be accelerated.”

Cameroon Palm Oil Plantation Withdraws Sustainability Application


Pratap ChatterjeeCorpWatch Blog

September 6th, 2012

A subsidiary of Herakles Capital, a New York based investment firm, has decided to cancel its application to join the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) after environmental groups alleged that its 73,086 hectare project in southwestern Cameroon would threaten the sustainability of the local community.

In 2009, the SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon, Ltd. (SGSOC), which is wholly owned by Herakles Capital, acquired a 99 year lease to land in Ndian and Kupe-Manenguba divisions where it drew up plans for a $350 million palm oil plantation. (Herakles Capital has several other investments in Africa such as the Bujagali dam in Uganda, the Boke Alumina Project in the Republic of Guinea and an East African undersea fiber-optic project.)

“From its very name, American-owned SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon, Ltd. (SGSOC) presents a pro-environment, pro-resources image,” writes Frederic Mousseau, policy director of the Oakland Institute in California in a new report released this week. “(But it) is also part of a strategy to deceive the public into believing that there is logic to cutting down rainforests to make room for palm oil plantations.”

SGSOC has gone to great lengths to convince the public that it is socially responsible. “Our project, should it proceed, will be a big project with big impacts – environmentally and socially,” Herakles CEO Bruce Wrobel wrote to the Oakland Institute in July 2011. “The big question – and the real story – is whether it ends up strongly positive or strongly negative. I couldn’t be more convinced that this will be an amazingly positive story for the people within our impact area.”

In addition to Herakles, Wrobel operates a non-profit dedicated to poverty reduction named “All for Africa” that boasts board members like Nigerian-American actor Gbenga Akinnagbe who shot to fame in The Wire, a U.S. TV series, and the film: The Taking of Pelham 123.

And SGSOC also applied to join the international Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which has signed up 779 members and associates including almost every major industry player in the world, in an effort to burnish its social responsibility credentials.

Indeed RSPO was created in 2004 to address the numerous clashes over palm plantations around the world with the help of non-government organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund which helped set up the organization.
But the palm oil industry – which produces 50 million tons of edible oils and biofuels a year – remains deeply controversial.

As CorpWatch writer Melody Kemp noted in her recent article for us “Green Deserts: The Palm Oil Conflict” the plantation companies make money in two ways: First they clear cut and sell the existing high-value trees, burning the residue. The haze from those forest fires has interrupted regional air traffic and caused severe respiratory illnesses in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia as well as Singapore. Then the companies plant the spiky oil palms trees, creating vast, eerily silent monoculture plantations.

Activists have sparked a raging debate over the industry, faulting palm oil for contributing significantly to carbon dioxide and methane emissions, the loss of biodiversity and precious carbon sequestering forests, land subsidence, poverty, and for exacerbating starvation resulting from land appropriation.

The very same problems have been predicted in an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) conducted by SGSOC itself. The company assessment suggested that the negative impact of the plantation on livelihoods will be “major” and “long-term.”

Nor is the Herakles investment the most efficient way to support the local economy, according to a report by on the SGSOC deal by two Cameroonian NGOs, the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) and Réseau de Lutte contre la Faim (RELUFA). The groups calculated that the government of Cameroon could generate 13 times more employment and significantly larger tax revenue if it were to require local bread-makers to use 20 percent locally produced flour (derived from sweet potatoes, corn or cassava), using just 15,000 hectares of land.

Local farmers and politicians are especially skeptical of SGSOC because palm oil plantations are not new to the region. Beginning in 1927, companies like Pamol have operated similar projects for decades. “Plantation jobs have always been modern day slavery,” says Joshua Osih of the Social Democratic Front, Cameroon’s main opposition party, in an interview for the film “The Herakles Debacle” just released by the Oakland Institute. “We’ve seen a lot of industrial plantations develop around this area and nothing, absolutely nothing, has happened positively to the population.”

“Everybody here is self employed,” Okie Bonaventure Ekoko, a cocoa farmer from Mboko village told the film maker Franck Bieleu. “There is no advantages that the people here will have (from Herakles investments). We don’t need them, we are fine.”

“And if they come and say they want to take this land from us, we are not ready for it,” says Esoh Sylvanus Asui, a farmer from Bombe Konye village. “We will fight and we will die for our land.”

In May 2011, some 50 local and international environmental and community groups wrote a letter to Wrobel expressing concern. In March 2012 a number of the same groups lodged a formal complaint against Herakles with the RSPO alleging that Herakles’ project violated Cameroonian laws and noted that it “would disrupt the ecological landscape and migration routes of protected species.” Meanwhile local farmers have begun to organize against the project. On June 6, 2012, villagers from Fabe and Toko held a protest against the plantation during the visit of the local governor.

On August 24 2012, Herakles withdrew its application to the RSPO.

“The RSPO regrets this withdrawal of membership by Herakles Farms,” the organization said in a brief statement posted to its website. “This action pre-empts recommendations from the RSPO Complaints Panel to further verify the allegations made by the complainants.”

The company did not respond to requests for comment from the media.

SA pioneers malaria breakthrough


Southern Times

By Gabriel Manyati

August 31, 2012

Johannesburg – A drug that has the potential to treat malaria has been pioneered by researchers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa.

It is the first time a potential cure has been developed on African soil.

New malaria drugs are urgently needed, as there is there is growing resistance to existing treatments and no effective vaccine to protect people from infection.

Malaria is a huge killer in many other parts of the continent: one in four child deaths in Africa south of the Sahara is due to malaria; and the disease reduces the region’s GDP by an estimated US$12 billion a year.

In South Africa, malaria killed 89 people and affected another 9 866 last year, according to the Department of Health.

Malaria is transmitted by infected mosquitoes, with children and pregnant women being the most susceptible to it.

According to the World Health Organisation, there are an estimated 300 million acute cases of malaria globally each year.

And now a potential breakthrough has been made in South Africa.

“This is truly a proud day for African science and African scientists. Our team is hopeful that the compound will emerge from rigorous testing as an extremely effective medicine for malaria,” said Professor Kelly Chibale, the founder and director of the UCT’s Drug Development and Discovery Centre (H3-D).

It has been hailed as evidence that South Africa is pioneering advancements in the medical field.

The candidate drug, from a class of compounds called aminopyridines, was identified by a team led by Prof Kelly Chibale, working in collaboration with the nonprofit Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV).

The candidate drug, called MMV390048, has so far only been tested on rodents but the results are promising: it appears to be stable and safe, is effective against a variety of strains of the malaria parasite, and requires only a single dose to cure the animals of malaria, Prof Chibale said.

A single-dose cure would be ideal, because it would do away with the problem of people not finishing a course of treatment. If patients stop taking medication because they feel well again but before the parasite has been killed, it gives the parasite an opportunity to develop resistance to the drug.

The drug stays in the body for a long time, preventing regrowth of the parasite, which means it has the potential to block transmission of the parasite from one person to another, he said.

The compound has been patented, and research into its effects on malaria-infected rodents was published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry in March.

It has been selected by MMV’s scientific advisory committee for further clinical research. The next step will be to test its safety in a small group of healthy human volunteers in a phase one clinical trial.

The aim is to produce a drug that costs less than US$1 a day, so that it will be affordable to Africans, said Dr Leslie Street, head of medicinal chemistry and principal research officer at H3-D.

Even if all goes well with the clinical research, a new drug could still be three to five years down the road, he cautioned.

It is not clear at this stage whether the phase one trial will be carried out in South Africa, said Richard Gordon, regional representative for MMV, as there is limited local capacity to do this highly-specialised work.

Further work is also needed to identify a suitable company to manufacture MMV390048 in suitable quantities for the clinical trials.

Prof Chibale and his colleagues worked with scientists from the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, the Centre for Drug Candidate Optimisation at Australia’s Monash University and India’s Syngene to home in on the candidate drug.

Their work was given a kick-start by researchers at Griffith University in Australia, who screened about six million compounds to identify the aminopyradine series from which MMV390048 was isolated.

South Africa: Public Works to boost technical skills base


7th Space

Compiled by the Government Communication and Information System
Date: 21 May 2012
Title: Public Works to boost technical skills base
——————–

Pretoria – The Department of Public Works is set to invest more funds in developing in-house technical capacity, which in the long run will help it to save money that is currently paid to consultants.

This emerged after Minister Thulasi Nxesi met with Public Works MECs in Johannesburg over the weekend to develop strategies to enhance service delivery.

Among the issues discussed was the need to address the lack of professional and technical skills, given the fact that Public Works is a highly technical department.

This, according to the department, means recruiting from the private sector, as well as inserting clauses into construction contracts to require contractors to train young engineers and artisans. The department will determine the minimum basket of skills required nationally and provincially.

The discussions also centred on developing and capacitating emerging black construction contractors, whilst strengthening sanctions – including blacklisting – against non-performing contractors to enhance service delivery.

Also taking part in the meeting was the Construction Industry Development Board (CIBD) – a public entity which reports to the Minister of Public Works. CIBD is concurrently reviewing the regulatory framework to ensure it enhances, rather than inhibits, contractor development.

The meeting also explored the use of alternative construction methods (ACMs) to tackle the issue of mud schools. Pilot schemes have been completed in the Eastern Cape and North West provinces.

These methods produce buildings that in most instances are better than conventional buildings, in that they are more sustainable, cheaper and quicker to erect.

Nxesi also explained the implications of the recently announced national infrastructure roll out plans.

“The effective roll out of the Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) … the revitalisation of health facilities and the national school building programme, require that Public Works, nationally and provincially, together with client departments, local authorities and implementing bodies work closely together to ensure effective delivery.

“This means maximum coordination and changing the way we work to reduce delays and cut through the bureaucracy. The roll out of health and education infrastructure will also stimulate further economic activity in communities and job creation,” said Nxesi.

Professor Shadrack Gutto, constitutional law expert and public policy commentator, was invited to present a legal opinion and research findings on the application of cooperative governance and concurrent mandates, concepts which are central to improving coordination between the spheres of government.

He concluded that whilst minor legislative or regulatory changes might be necessary, much could be done administratively to strengthen coordination between the spheres, including developing a memorandum of understanding to clarify roles and responsibilities.

A resolution was taken to, among other things, request Professor Gutto to undertake further research, whilst joint structures are established to identify the areas that need to be covered in a memorandum of understanding and to encourage greater cooperation and interaction between provinces to share experiences and best practices.

As examples, the MEC of the Eastern Cape – where ACMs have been used to replace mud schools – invited other provinces to visit these schools, whilst the Western and Northern Cape provinces discussed cooperation to address skills deficits.

The national department will also coordinate with provincial departments to further enhance reliability of the Immovable Assets Register of state assets.

Reported by: South African Government News Service

Company to deliver 1.2 MW biogas power generation plant


Engineering News

By Chantelle Kotzé

April 20th, 2012

South African electric equipment sup- plier Zest WEG Group, through its subsidiary company, Zest Energy, and in collaboration with an engineering, procurement and construction management contractor, has been awarded a contract by water and sanitation services provider Johannesburg Water for the delivery of a 1.2 MW biogas power generation plant.

“We have noticed a trend towards using biogas to generate power, and are proud to confirm our first biogas project with Johan-nesburg Water,” says Zest WEG Group sales and marketing director Gary Daines.

The contract, awarded in November last year, entails the supply of modular gas engines, as well as an integrated electrical system, which takes clean methane gas generated from the digesters within the water treatment facility and transforms it into electrical power.

The plant will initially generate 1.2 MW of power, but has the potential to produce increased power outputs, depending on the future availability of biogas. The plant will supplement the water utility’s current power supply and reduce its overall running costs.

“This is the first project of its kind and magnitude in South Africa and we hope that the successful commissioning of this project will lead to other munici- palities and water treatment facilities gaining confidence to support and implement this type of electricity generation project at their facilities,” states Daines.

He adds that an additional benefit for the company is that the project is based on a payback structure that allows for the capital costs of the project to be, in essence, paid back to the company over time, as it supplements its own power needs.

The company reports that it is currently installing the modular gas units that will be commissioned at the end of July.

Meanwhile, the majority shareholder in Zest WEG Group, Brazilian electrical equipment manufacturer WEG, has introduced steam turbines produced by its Brazilian technology partners to the South African market. This is as a result of similar power generation opportunities, already identified and brought to fruition in Brazil, being released in South Africa’s sugar and pulp and paper industries.

“We want to bring cogeneration to the South African market through industries that have excess steam for power generation, which can be generated into power and used to supplement electricity supply or to sell back to the grid,” explains Daines.

The company hopes to break into the independent power producer (IPP) market as a technology partner and supply these steam turbines to renewable- energy projects.

“Since IPPs have gained momentum, there are numerous opportunities to generate power from an array of sources, such as gas, hydro, wind and solar, and we should see IPPs develop at an incredible rate,” says Daines.

The company believes that it can gain valuable knowledge of green power technology from its Brazilian shareholder, WEG, as 85% of Brazil’s power is clean power produced through hydroelectric technologies.

Zest WEG Group says it is dedicated to skills training and has skills programmes in place as well as its own training facility and a dedicated training officer.

It is especially focused on skills training in maintenance and efficient long-term operations.

The company feels that there is a need to contribute to the skills within the country’s resource base and maintains that, if other organisations followed the same strategy and committed themselves to training small segments of the resource base, the skills shortage could be dealt with, Daines states.

COTE D’IVOIRE: Help For Small Businesses Key to Relaunching Economy


IPS Africa

By Fulgence Zamblé

ABIDJAN, Aug 1 (IPS) – The Ivorian government has begun compensating small and medium-sized businesses for damages suffered during the post-election crisis, in order to relaunch the economy.

The government allocated 13 million dollars to this task on Jul. 15, prompted by the fact that the private sector in Côte d’Ivoire is dominated by micro-enterprises and a vast informal sector, according to the Finance Ministry. A further 74 million dollars of support for the country’s banks was announced a few days later by Finance Minister Charles Diby Koffi, in order to allow financial institutions to support businesses with loans.

The ministry estimates the contribution of small and medium-sized enterprises to the country’s gross national product at around 18 percent; SMMEs together account for around 23 percent of formal employment.

Alassane Ouattara‘s victory in presidential elections in the West African country in November 2010 was challenged by the incumbent, Laurent Gbagbo; a lengthy standoff followed, brought to a close when the Ouattara-aligned Republic Forces of Côte d’Ivoire marched from their strongholds in the north of the country to seize the economic capital, Abidjan, in April 2011…Read more.

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